Stop in Harris, MI on "Road to the LPGA" is Much Loved by Players & Fans

Sweetgrass Golf Course                                                       Photo via @SweetgrassGolf
Avid fans of women's golf... as well as those who "only watch the women occasionally"... will no doubt be focused on Southampton, NY this weekend, where Sebonack Golf Club is hosting the 68th U.S. Women's Open.

The world's top female golfers are playing, though right now all eyes are on the Queen Bee, as she attempts to achieve a history-making win in the singular coastal setting. A compelling weekend of golf is all but guaranteed.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles away on Michigan's upper peninsula, another women's golf tournament is taking place in an equally sublime... but decidedly different... setting.  The Island Resort Championship is an event on the Symetra Tour; the tour known as the "Road to the LPGA".  It began today at Sweetgrass Golf Club in the township of Harris, MI.

Among players, The event has become one of the most popular stops on tour. A welcoming community, enthusiastic fans and a stellar course in top condition, are some of the things that make The Island Resort Championship such an anticipated tournament. In fact, here's what Canada's Nicole Vanderware had to say about the crowds at yesterday's opening round:
“This might be the most fans I’ve ever seen out here supporting us,” said Vanderware. “There are so many out here on nine and 18, clapping and cheering for you. It’s been awesome. I’ve never been here before and it’s been great, everyone is so friendly.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed by Symetra Tour players since the tour first started coming to Harris in 2011.

Far from the glitzy, high profile Hamptons, the fans and host families in this pristine, upper-peninsula enclave, are inspiring future champions. Inspiring the women who spend endless hours on the road, and practice relentlessly in pursuit of LPGA dreams.

Follow the Island Resort Championship via the Symetra Tour website and on Twitter via @road2lpga  Also, check out the Symetra Tour Facebook page.


Top Women Golfers in "The Land of Aahs" - 2013 Women's US Open

photo credit: Alessandro Barbini                                           via photopin cc
Long Island, New York has an extraordinary golf history. As the US mainland's biggest island, it's home to a number of the country's oldest and most iconic courses.

There's no place on the island that captures the imagination more than the south fork, and the area known as the Hamptons.  Frequently featured in film, television and literature and the very mention of its name evokes wealth, celebrity and over-the-top excess. It's no doubt that aspect that inspired Vanity Fair to refer to the Hamptons as the Land of Aahs. The area's pristine natural beauty and quaint architectural style provide a perfect juxtaposition to the perceived debauchery.

This week the LPGA will be there, at Sebonack Golf Club, for its 2013 U.S. Women's Open Championship, and the consensus is that the high profile nature of the tournament combined with the singular nature of the location will be uniquely beneficial for the profile of women's golf... and for golf on Long Island.

It's not like the inhabitants of the Hamptons are lacking for golf however, in addition to their uber-exclusive country clubs numerous homes in this exclusive bastion include personal putting greens, and practice areas... some even feature their own private golf courses.  Check out some of my favorite Hamptons golf homes.


Weekend Starts With A Stellar Leaderboard at the Travelers Championship

The 2013 Travelers Championship                                                                                                  Photos: © Golf Girl Media

As the first official weekend of summer gets underway at the 2013 Travelers Championship, an impressive leaderboard and a fine forecast are promising to make this year's event the most memorable ever.

Earlier this week several pro ams... and numerous fan-friendly events... entertained crowds, while funds and awareness were raised for the many charities the championship supports.

I spent Wednesday at TPC River Highlands and, as always, enjoyed the relaxed vibe and pastoral setting that make this tournament unique.  A mini golf tournament and the celebrity pro-am animated the day.

For me personally, the highlight of that day came in the form of a portly, middle-aged Asian woman... wearing a jaunty straw bucket hat.  She stood at the top of the rather steep hill players climb from the 18th green and greeted Angel Cabrera with, "Hey Baby, I watch you all the time and I really like you".  The popular Pato was somewhat winded by the time he got up to where his admirer was standing, but did acknowledge her with a tip of his hat.  It was a pretty awesome scene.

Bubba Watson currently tops the leaderboard with Padraig Harrington two back, I'm looking forward to getting back up to Cromwell on Sunday.


Multichromatic Magic - Probably the Most Inspired Golf Gift Ever

Father's Day has a special significance when it comes to golf.  Dads and golf often go together, particularly in suburban America, where on summer weekends the average course sees a disproportionate number of such pairings. In addition, Father's Day is traditionally when the US Open is decided.

It's totally natural therefore, that when the subject is Father's Day gifts, many Dads will be hoping for golf gifts.

That said, the most inspired golf gift I've ever seen comes from France, where gift giving is taken very seriously.  Having lived in Paris for several years... and having been married to a French man for a couple of decades... I know this to be true.  So, when storied French sportswear company Lacoste celebrated its 80 birthday recently I wasn't surprised when I heard that, the gifts were epic.

In that spirit, I invite you to check out this ultra-impressive, multi-chromatic example: Twenty-seven golf tees in colors inspired by Lacoste's own iconic polo shirts.  The set was gifted by Bernardaud, venerable French purveyor of exquisite porcelain and was bought to my attention by Jean-henri Bernard, a French friend who lives golf on course and through his writing, photography and art.  Happy Father's Day.



US Open 2013: Inspire Your Style With Merion's Red Wicker Baskets

Merion-Inspired Red Wicker Bags                      via TheGolfGirl on Polyvore
When you're universally known as the "toughest test in golf", you've clearly got a reputation to uphold.

Each year the US Open attempts to ensure its fierce singularity with a shifting roster of venues and a wide variety of course set-ups.

Firm greens, narrow fairways and unforgiving rough are among the arsenal put into play to have players confronting a formidable adversary time and again.

It can all seem a bit... well... draconian, and when the whole "small offences/heavy punishments" thing becomes wearying, it's got to be nice to have an element of lightness and whimsicality to focus on.  This year, at moist, marshy Merion Golf Club, the whimsical element comes in the form of wicker basket. Eighteen of them to be exact. They come in both red and orange, and sit atop the steel pin at each hole on the historic East Course, replacing the more conventional cloth drapeau. The "wickers" provoke an endless stream of commentary and a general sense of ... well something like wonderment.  There are several theories as to how Merion came to favor these iconic woven "standards".  The New York Times' Bill Pennington explores a couple of them in his article on the topic and James Achenbach provides additional details in his informative GolfWeek story.

I won't be surprised to see a few weekend spectators accessorizing their gallery garb with some red woven whimsy. I, for one, feel that would be a stellar style statement for the 113th US Open.


Kate Spade Introduces Ideal Accessories for the Stylish Golf Spectator

In the Gallery at the Golf Tourney w/ Kate Spade       via TheGolfGirl on Polyvore 
I've got to admit it, from April to October, most of my waking hours are spent in golf clothes. Plus, I tend to write about golf fashion quite regularly.  So it's no suprise,  that I receive numerous inquiries regarding fairway fashion.

Newcomers... and even those who've played the game for a while... want to know which golf apparel brands are the most stylish, comfortable and performant, and they want to know where to find the best value for their golf apparel/accessory dollars.

After all, by its very nature a golf course can be an intimidating place, and no one wants to make it more so by wearing something inappropriate.  In addition, as club dress codes become less restrictive... and more designers dabble in golfwear... a player can go in numerous directions style-wise.

What often surprises me however, is the number of inquiries I get from prospective golf spectators.  Golf spectating, it seems, comes with its own distinct set of sartorial uncertainties.  Is a dress too dressy to wear to a tournament... are jeans too casual?  Would a lady wearing a tank top (or a tube-top or a halter top) be frowned upon... how about a guy in cargo shorts?

Spectators Can't Compete with Rickie Fowler         photo: ©Golf Girl Media
The fact that a golf tournament takes place outdoors, across thousands of yards of undulating terrain and tends to draw spectators from one viewing area to another... distinguishes it from most other sporting events and makes it important to give some additional consideration to: A. the weather, and B."ambulatory comfort factor".

My take, having attended many professional golf tournaments, is that there's quite a bit of leeway when it comes to golf spectating style.  As long as your outfit is reasonably casual and neither excessively sloppy nor exceedingly sexy, you'll be fine from a fashion standpoint. As far as footwear is concerned, assume you'll be walking quite a bit... and won't necessarily have pavement underfoot. Beyond that, what's comfortable is quite subjective.  Spike heels and platforms are rarely, if ever, a good idea at a golf tournament... but if you're comfortable in flip-flops, they're an option. As are other flat sandals, ballet flats, topsiders and just about any kind of running shoe. Some will tell you golf shoes don't belong outside the ropes, however I don't think they're considering some of today's golf shoe styles which look... and walk... like street shoes.

We're working on an eGuidebook for golf spectators, with lots of fun features and additional ideas on what to wear when you're off to watch the pros. In the meantime numerous fairway fashionistas are obsessing about Kate Spade's stellar line of accessories for golf spectators... the collection is a one-stop-shop for those who wish to stand out in the golf galleries this season.


Historic Merion Will Certainly Be This Week's US Open Golf Star

Merion's Iconic Red Wicker Baskets               photo credit: Penn State Turfgrass via photopin cc
While the weather in Haverford, PA looks a bit questionable, there can be no doubt at all that Merion East... with her "white face" bunkers and red wicker baskets... will be much discussed as US Open week gets underway.   

Fans, players and media will surely be awed by the course's history, but will also be weighing in on the venue's ability to accommodate a 21st century major.  We can also be assured of a copious dose of opinionating on the changes that have been made to the venerable course to ensure that the "grand old lady" can stand up to the way modern technology has affected the game. 

Bill Pennington's New York Times article on the "US Open's Audacious Experiment" presents an overview of what's at stake this week on the fairways and greens of Merion East, and how it may affect future debate on the future evolution of golf.

I won't be in Haverford this week... much to my chagrin... but I'll certainly be soaking up the golf history vicariously through those who are, and closely following their conversations on Merion's 21st century challenge.  In the meantime I'll be reposting some of the many bits I've written on Merion over the years.  


Revolutionary Mixed-Sex Open Has Golf Couples Competing as Equals

Mixed Sex Golf Competition         photo credit: byronv2 via photopin cc
Have you heard the latest news out of Barnham Broom?

I'm guessing you may not have, so let me fill you in: it seems Barnham Broom Golf Club, a pastoral Norfolk (UK) golf destination, will be breaking with tradition later this summer and hosting the region's first mixed-sex open tournament.

Initially, this news may not sound significant enough to be labeled "revolutionary". However, the fact is, mixed-sex competitions... where female golfers compete directly against their male counterparts... are extremely rare.  There are many reasons for the sex segregation, some of which are cultural, based on tradition established in the infancy of the sport, while others involve measured physiological advantages men have over women... in golf among many sports... particularly at top levels.

While I won't go into detail here (for fear of alienating anyone new to the game) I'm guessing that widespread confusion/contention surrounding handicap adjustment when playing from different tees, also plays a role in the general distaste for mixed-sex golf tournaments.

The golf director at Barnham Broom however, appears to feel the time is right for an on-course revolution. The new format, that'll take place over five days, across two championship courses, will involve both strokeplay and matchplay.  More details (including info on how to enter) can be found on the Barnham Broom website, as well as in Lewis Pacelli's recent story for Golf Monthly.


The Powerful Passion... and Possible Perils... of Golf and Marriage

The Fairway to Marital Bliss... or On Course for Divorce? It depends.        © Golf Girl Media 
I didn't marry a golfer. I married an erudite Frenchman who'd never before set foot on a golf course.

The man I fell in love with all those years ago a few years ago was a competitive recreational tennis player, and when we traveled... which we did quite extensively for the first several years of our marriage... he tended to select our hotels based on their tennis facilities.  He also learned to make sure the properties featured an impressive swimming pool for his sedentary, sun-worshiping wife.

Golf came later, for both of us after we'd settled down in my homestate of Connecticut.  The landscape that now surrounded us featured many beautiful courses including one in particular where his newly minted suburban friends spent most of their free time.

Of course learning golf... and developing a (relatively) respectable game... is a real challenge, particularly for an adult male in the US, as he'll often find himself surrounded by men who've been playing since childhood ...and some of those men fail to see the humor in the myriad missed shots of a mature newbie.

But my high handicap husband has never been one to let such things deter him and, for the most part just about everyone he met... at the range and on the course... was welcoming and receptive.  Within a year he was comfortable... and addicted... enough to seek out golf when we traveled and it was almost a decade ago, on a trip to France, that he introduced me to strong-armed me into trying the game.  Needless to say, I took to it.

Last weekend at a neighborhood cocktail party I witnessed a somewhat tipsy suburban matron launch into a diatribe about her golfing husband and his all-too-frequent absences.  Then, later on the same evening, I overheard the bombastic hedgefunder from two houses down complaining that his wife had started taking golf lessons and now wanted him to take her out on the course.  Clearly golf doesn't enhance all marriages.

It does for ours however, and at this point I can honestly say that golf plays a major role in our conjugal happiness. Both of us agree that Chi Chi Rodriguez put it best when he said, "Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off".
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